Saturday, June 17, 2017

A distaff Very Bad Things

Remember when I used to write posts that consisted of my uninformed take on a new release, timed to its release date?

Haven't done a lot of those lately, but here's one.

In one of the more unlikely "female version of" movies to come along in a while, Rough Night is a distaff Very Bad Things.

You know, "Very Bad Things" as in that Peter Berg movie from 1998 starring Christian Slater and Daniel Stern, where a bachelor party leads to the accidental death of a stripper, and severely escalating repercussions from there. A pretty mean-spirited movie that I liked quite a bit, but I'd say I was definitely in the minority.

And you know, "distaff" as in "a stick or spindle on to which wool or flax is wound for spinning."

Sorry, make that "distaff" as in "of or concerning women."

"Distaff" is a pretty old-fashioned word, one we used to see in Shakespeare and the like. But it's still favored for occasional use by smart people like me, who happen to be looking for a synonym for "female."

I imagine this comedy will only take the basic premise from Very Bad Things, as many of the other things that happen in that 19-year-old film are a bit too black even for today's black comedy standards. Berg's film does indeed walk that fine line between edgy and "oh no you didn't," to mostly good effect. Don't see it happening in 2017 with a cast of pretty likable ladies.

A bit surprised, actually, that Scarlett Johansson is one of those ladies. Because she has made so many good choices lately, we tend to forget that Scarlett gotta eat too. And paying Scarlett's bills occasionally entails choices that won't leave critics aflutter. I hope she either elevates the material, or at least that it does not bring her down to its level.

Among the rest of the cast, you've got one more straight woman (Zoe Kravitz) and three camera hogs (Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glazer and Jillian Bell). If this is Bridesmaids -- and it seems like it pretty much is -- then all three of them are Melissa McCarthy. That seems unlikely to work.

And of those three, I'm pretty down on two of them. McKinnon has actually won me over a bit after appearing in the last big "female version of" movie, Ghostbusters, alongside Bridesmaids alums Kristen Wiig and the aforementioned McCarthy, but she still has a bit farther to go before I'm willing to say I look forward to her contributions to a movie. I'm kind of repulsed by the comedy of Glazer, for some reason, after seeing her and really not enjoying her character in The Night Before. That's also where I met Bell, who played Seth Rogen's wife. I am probably most interested in what she might bring to the table. (And yeah, I guess female comedy is a sadly small and incestuous club, as all of these women are either one or zero degrees removed from each other in the Kevin Bacon game.)

Then again, speaking of McCarthy, there was a time when I didn't like her either. Since then, I've loved her in The Heat, Spy and The Boss, not to mention that wicked impersonation of Sean Spicer. So none of these women is beyond reclaiming.

And I might actually see this movie. I'm currently scouting candidates for the second film I'll see Tuesday night after going to a critics screening of (God help me) the new Transformers. As we're in a bit of a lull for the release of new independent films, it's either this or The Mummy. And I don't know if I can handle two bloated and overlong action movies in one night.

Whether Rough Night makes that a really rough night, or gives me a necessary palette cleanser after 140 minutes of smashing and grinding metal, remains to be seen.

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